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Saudi Arabia to relocate students from Canada

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Any thoughts on this - i.e. what will be the impact on med schools & residency programs and students/residents (both Saudi and non-Saudi)?  The only thing I know is that there are a lot of Saudis studying in Canada in medicine - no idea whether this is overall beneficial or neutral to the programs.  

"Saudi Arabia has suspended scholarships to Canada and will relocate students already there, state media said Monday, after the kingdom abruptly cut ties with Ottawa over criticism of its jailing of rights activists....

More than 7,000 students from Saudi Arabia are enrolled in university programmes in Canada, according to Harbash, head of the education ministry's scholarship programme.These students, 2,000 of whom are enrolled in graduate or medical school, are accompanied by more than 5,000 dependents."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-6031801/Saudi-Arabia-relocate-students-Canada.html

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We'll see if they carry through with this threat. It would be more disruptive for them and their citizens than it would be for us, so it seems like a very strong reaction for how this situation started. If they do go through with it, the effect on our system will likely be mixed, though probably negative in the short term.

Call and duty schedules could go very crazy, especially in some programs with many of these learners. Some residents may unexpectedly find themselves working extra call shifts, particularly in the short term when there isn't as much time to plan around these disruptions. Programs and hospitals also get a fair bit of money from Saudi Arabia for this training and that could see some very real reverberations through the medical education system, resulting in some cuts to certain voluntary hospital- or program-provided perks. Smaller, less competitive fields that rely heavily on these learners will likely see the greatest changes.

Over the long term, there could be some benefits. This could open up capacity in some programs to take on new residents, as despite programs' protestations to the contrary, foreign-sponsored students do take up learning opportunities that could be directly elsewhere, especially with the new pressure to open up additional CMG spots. From a quality perspective, while Saudi-sponsored trainees had a wide range of capabilities (as with any larger group of individuals), I generally have found them to be on the below-average end of the spectrum when it comes to residents of equivalent training levels, at least in a Canadian practice setting.

On the balance of things, I imagine programs and hospitals will view this as a decided negative - after all, they took on these learners for a reason. The healthcare system overall will probably see changes closer to neutral once the dust has settled. For other residents, I'd argue there will be short term pain, but some rather modest benefits over time in the way of less crowded clinical teaching centres.

One element I came across that I believe may be a negative from a broader perspective is that these residents spent years, typically half a decade or more, immersed in Canadian culture. Their kids - and most have kids - grew up around Canadian children. That imparts certain values which are hard to shake, even when they return to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is, if only very tentatively, starting to make some moves towards a more progressive, open society, and the more people who see the benefits that come with a more Canadian mindset, the faster such changes might happen. Medical residents from Saudi Arabia are universally from a more privileged class than the vast majority of the country, and in many ways have directly or indirectly profited from the oppression of wide swathes of their citizens, but as most successful revolutions - peaceful or otherwise - only occur with the support of at least part of the privileged classes, the more individuals in that echelon of society open to reform, the better the prospects for reform get. Sounds like most of these students and residents will be transferred to other western nations, so it's likely they get the same general exposure to more liberal societies. Still, the chaos of this announcement could lead to some missed opportunities to inch Saudi culture closer to the west, and reduce the frequency of events like the one that started this whole diplomatic row.

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Oh yeah, this is going to be a mess.........those transfers are unlikely to be clean 1 to 1 placements, and those programs they mention are already full so new learners coming in at the wrong time aren't going to go over easily. 

I would comment further but I suspect this is all in flux currently. We really have to stop doing all this twitter style politics. Shockingly a couple of sentences is not enough space to go over complex issues. 

 

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1 hour ago, ralk said:

 

One element I came across that I believe may be a negative from a broader perspective is that these residents spent years, typically half a decade or more, immersed in Canadian culture. Their kids - and most have kids - grew up around Canadian children. That imparts certain values which are hard to shake, even when they return to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is, if only very tentatively, starting to make some moves towards a more progressive, open society, and the more people who see the benefits that come with a more Canadian mindset, the faster such changes might happen. Medical residents from Saudi Arabia are universally from a more privileged class than the vast majority of the country, and in many ways have directly or indirectly profited from the oppression of wide swathes of their citizens, but as most successful revolutions - peaceful or otherwise - only occur with the support of at least part of the privileged classes, the more individuals in that echelon of society open to reform, the better the prospects for reform get. Sounds like most of these students and residents will be transferred to other western nations, so it's likely they get the same general exposure to more liberal societies. Still, the chaos of this announcement could lead to some missed opportunities to inch Saudi culture closer to the west, and reduce the frequency of events like the one that started this whole diplomatic row.

Thanks for the detailed reply, ralk!  This is an interesting point - in my limited experience, both the US and UK (two countries that have been mentioned as possible destinations) don't quite embrace multi-culturalism in quite the same way as Canada, and so the societal transformation that you mention and Canada's world influencing role could unfortunately both be diminished.

49 minutes ago, rmorelan said:

We really have to stop doing all this twitter style politics. Shockingly a couple of sentences is not enough space to go over complex issues. 

Good point!  After all, Saudi Arabia and Canada are generally considered "moderate" states - this kind of quick "blow up" is really something new.  Sounds like a knee-jerk reaction almost by the Saudis - although tweeting Canada doesn't nearly have the same meaning as in a very conservative society.   

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5 minutes ago, A-Stark said:

Saudi Arabia is a "moderate" state? They didn't allow women to vote until 2015 and to drive only this year. 

Yeah, I should have qualified that - politically (not socially) speaking relative to the "neighbourhood".  For instance, Canada in general takes much less extreme positions than the US, and with respect to other states in the region, the Saudis seem to be less volatile (e.g. Yemen and Iran).

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5 minutes ago, tere said:

Yeah, I should have qualified that - politically (not socially) speaking relative to the "neighbourhood".  For instance, Canada in general takes much less extreme positions than the US, and with respect to other states in the region, the Saudis seem to be less volatile (e.g. Yemen and Iran).

well I guess it is all relative - although clearly there are lines they won't cross, and they can be draconian in many ways as well. 

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If the Saudis don’t backtrack soon, the ripple effect is that Canada will never be able to trust them again in terms of living up to their commitments, and they will not be able to count on Canada ever again agreeing to provide their citizens with medical education. Thus, they are shooting themselves in the foot for the long term. Out of arrogance, they mistakenly believe they are doing this to harm us.

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41 minutes ago, tere said:

Yeah, I should have qualified that - politically (not socially) speaking relative to the "neighbourhood".  For instance, Canada in general takes much less extreme positions than the US, and with respect to other states in the region, the Saudis seem to be less volatile (e.g. Yemen and Iran).

Well, Yemen might not be the best example here, seeing as Saudi Arabia is a major reason as to why that country is so volatile these days...

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10 minutes ago, ralk said:

Well, Yemen might not be the best example here, seeing as Saudi Arabia is a major reason as to why that country is so volatile these days...

Yeah - Yemen is complex.  Iraq, then?

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20 minutes ago, Bambi said:

If the Saudis don’t backtrack soon, the ripple effect is that Canada will never be able to trust them again in terms of living up to their commitments, and they will not be able to count on Canada ever again agreeing to provide their citizens with medical education. Thus, they are shooting themselves in the foot for the long term. Out of arrogance, they mistakenly believe they are doing this to harm us.

broader question though is why does saudi arabia in the longer term - a country with a population equal to ours need to send people to other countries on mass for fellowship training at all. I mean our GDP per capita is higher (about double) but still. We are sending back, and have been sending back, highly trained people for some time - people that you would expect be top educators there.  

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Just now, F508 said:

Did the Saudi residents get sent back to their home country already? Or they’re just not allowed to work as residents for the time being?

Dust is still in the air. Hard to believe such a radical change will come about so quickly (over twitter no less). Tomorrow will be informative.

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6 minutes ago, F508 said:

Did the Saudi residents get sent back to their home country already? Or they’re just not allowed to work as residents for the time being?

Seen some rumblings on social media saying some have been instructed to leave by the end of August. Nothing official though from the Saudi end. The Canadian federal government doesn't seem interested in kicking any students or residents out, so it's all driven by Saudi Arabia's timelines.

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1 hour ago, F508 said:

Did the Saudi residents get sent back to their home country already? Or they’re just not allowed to work as residents for the time being?

I am not even sure how that would work - can they revoke the visa that simply? They could cut their funding for sure. These people have lives, homes and family here - cannot imagine they are just sitting their happily with all this. 

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Suppose they pull these residents back so suddenly. What will then happen to them? Before finding a new training program, it will most likely take a few month, if not an entire year before they can resume their training. I'm not sure the residents themselves would be too happy to know they need to go back so suddenly, when they had conditional jobs offers back in their home country upon the successful completion of a residency program in Canada.

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Maybe they pulled funding for these residents? Anyways they control the contracts that the residents signed. There’s probably a clause that says the contact can change at any time without warning

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9 hours ago, rmorelan said:

I am not even sure how that would work - can they revoke the visa that simply? They could cut their funding for sure. These people have lives, homes and family here - cannot imagine they are just sitting their happily with all this. 

Every Saudi resident I know/knew HATES Saudi Arabia. They dreaded the thought of having to return there after training was done. Once they got out of the country and into the West, they never wanted to leave. I know many who just kept doing fellowship after fellowship to avoid returning. I know at least one who somehow managed to weasel his way out of his contract and now works in job in a more "rural" area of Southern Ontario. I know another who was forced to return and he hated the idea so much he left his kids and wife in Canada (kids are Canadians) so they wouldn't have to be subjected to life there. He flies back and forth all the time. Eventually, once his contract is done, he will leave Saudi for good.

This seems like an aggressive move by the Saudis. However, internationally they've been taking a reputation beating. They have lost a ton of face over the Yemen intervention. Ignoring all the human rights and moral issues, the Saudi military has been shown to be terrible at fighting. The Saudi's are hurting because they've managed to prove they are as crappy at fighting as the West has long believed and they aren't a threat to Iran (their regional rival). They're overly sensitive about everything right now. So they over reacted to a strong Canadian position because, essentially, we don't really matter to them (or them to us). They can cause a real riff in the relationship without either country suffering a ton of consequences. At it serves, in their minds, to tell other countries:

1. Don't comment our government/human rights record.

2. We are a strong independent nation. Don't push us around.

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23 hours ago, NLengr said:

.This seems like an aggressive move by the Saudis. However, internationally they've been taking a reputation beating. They have lost a ton of face over the Yemen intervention. Ignoring all the human rights and moral issues, the Saudi military has been shown to be terrible at fighting. The Saudi's are hurting because they've managed to prove they are as crappy at fighting as the West has long believed and they aren't a threat to Iran (their regional rival). They're overly sensitive about everything right now. So they over reacted to a strong Canadian position because, essentially, we don't really matter to them (or them to us). They can cause a real riff in the relationship without either country suffering a ton of consequences. At it serves, in their minds, to tell other countries:

1. Don't comment our government/human rights record.

2. We are a strong independent nation. Don't push us around.

I wasn't aware of the all the recent changes that had been occurring in Saudi, but after looking through things, points 1 & 2 do seem like a good summary.  It seems it comes down to a new prince "MBS" in power, very sensitive to criticism, who has been accused of being the impulsive force behind many moves, including Yemen and now this.  Ironically, MBS also seems to have been the one that allowed women the right to drive.  If anything, the impulsive moves run counter to MBS apparent desire for greater liberalization ("moderate Islam") and are undoing the long-standing reputation of Saudi - although maybe it's just showing MBS' true colours.  

From what I know, Saudis have traditionally been much more of a Western (especially US ally), and have always been officially much less agressive than many of their regional neighbours (Iraq and Iran for example), although there's always been question of many back channels they were using to support extremist organizations.  I think this move is going to backfire not only for all the residents/students caught in the middle, but will also turn opinion against them.  A few years ago, the Swedish ambassador was also ousted for similar reasons but then reinstated, although I don't think something similar will happen here.  

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1 hour ago, tere said:

 A few years ago, the Swedish ambassador was also ousted for similar reasons but then reinstated, although I don't think something similar will happen here.  

I expect it probably will. Things will blow over and everyone will return to normal diplomatic relations. This is just posturing on the part of the Saudis. Once they think they have made their statement, they will back down.

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2 hours ago, NLengr said:

I expect it probably will. Things will blow over and everyone will return to normal diplomatic relations. This is just posturing on the part of the Saudis. Once they think they have made their statement, they will back down.

The Swedish rift was over within a  few weeks, apparently.  The rift with Canada could be more serious because of the student situation and also the big arms contract.  To me, a lot depends on what happens with the arms deal that they signed several years ago with Canada - if it gets publicly cancelled, then I'd expect a long freeze.  If the Saudi students do start leaving en masse, then I also think the rift will be more serious.  However, it could just blow over in the next month, once the Saudis realize how complicated changing things may be (and also the blowback from the move).  

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6 hours ago, NLengr said:

Every Saudi resident I know/knew HATES Saudi Arabia. They dreaded the thought of having to return there after training was done. Once they got out of the country and into the West, they never wanted to leave. I know many who just kept doing fellowship after fellowship to avoid returning. I know at least one who somehow managed to weasel his way out of his contract and now works in job in a more "rural" area of Southern Ontario. I know another who was forced to return and he hated the idea so much he left his kids and wife in Canada (kids are Canadians) so they wouldn't have to be subjected to life there. He flies back and forth all the time. Eventually, once his contract is done, he will leave Saudi for good.

This seems like an aggressive move by the Saudis. However, internationally they've been taking a reputation beating. They have lost a ton of face over the Yemen intervention. Ignoring all the human rights and moral issues, the Saudi military has been shown to be terrible at fighting. The Saudi's are hurting because they've managed to prove they are as crappy at fighting as the West has long believed and they aren't a threat to Iran (their regional rival). They're overly sensitive about everything right now. So they over reacted to a strong Canadian position because, essentially, we don't really matter to them (or them to us). They can cause a real riff in the relationship without either country suffering a ton of consequences. At it serves, in their minds, to tell other countries:

 1. Don't comment our government/human rights record.

2. We are a strong independent nation. Don't push us around.

It's not just the Yemen issue. MBS is also saving face nationally after his daddy came out of retirement to smack down the new Israel-Palestine peace treaty that MBS and Jared Kushner cooked up. I doubt this will actually turn into what it sounds like. Although I wouldn't mind if Canada finally stopped selling military equipment to Saudi.

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